“Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet.” Isaiah 28:17
Some of you might not know that I grew up on a farm. My dad was one of the hardest workers I have ever known. He also was one of the Godliest men I have ever known as well. I know some of my memories may be exaggerated from childhood, and he passed away 30+ years ago. However, my memories have been affirmed repeatedly as people have come forward through the years to provide testimony of how my father helped and ministered to them through the years.
When one grows up on a farm, you learn many things without “formal training.” There is a need and you just “learn.” My father, his friends – farmers and hunting buddies, they taught so much as we worked together through the years. A term I learned during those days was the saying, “out of kilter.” These men would have their ways of doing things, there were times I took the “shortcut.” What does this term mean? Well, sometimes something was “out of kilter” if you just did not do the task their way. On other occasions, what I did – by using my shortcuts, just didn’t work. Therefore, there were many times around the farm things were “out of kilter.”
Recently I was working on a project while Linda was listening to a Kay Arthur Bible study video. As Kay Arthur taught, she was using the illustration of a plumb line. It reminded of the times we worked together on the farm. When something was not straight and true, they would tell me it was “out of plumb.”
During Bible times, a plumb line was a cord with a lead weight used by builders to make sure that walls were constructed straight up and down. A spiritual plumb line speaks of God’s absolute uprightness. Kay Arthur would let the truth of the scripture she was teaching drop plumb, and then as she explained how we “lived out” that truth, we tended to go to the left or the right, she would push the line one way or the other to illustrate that modern day America often times is “out of kilter/out of plumb.” Then she would reiterate the scripture and the necessity of our getting back “in plumb.”
Recently I was studying Deuteronomy 14, emphasizing that EVERY aspect of our lives – including our menu – should be under the LORDSHIP of Christ! We need to apply God’s plumb line to our lives. Would we be “out of kilter” if we applied God’s plumb line to our homes/marriages? How do our business ethics, entertainment choices, political views, personal priorities, and practices measure up to the Biblical plumb line?
Apply God’s plumb line to our marriages and homes. How do the ethics of business, politics, and entertainment measure up to God’s plumb line? We can see how far our country has strayed from the biblical standards of right and wrong. If we are honest, we will see that in most aspects of American culture, there has been a major shift and we are way out of plumb!
God has established Jesus as our pattern of personal holiness. We have drifted far from that plumb line of righteousness. There will come a day when He will judge us out of kilter and unless we change, our eternity could be affected. We must get back to God’s Word to be plumb. If not, God will surely bring judgment upon our crooked walls.
Pray today that God will forgive us for being out of plumb. Thank Him for His mercy and grace toward us as we come back to the straight and narrow.
The LORD said to Gideon, "I will deliver you with the 300 men who lapped." Judges 7:7, HCSB
This morning in my scripture reading, I read from Judges 7. The above verse leaped out. God’s promise to Gideon, “I will deliver you….” To stop and meditate on that truth provides encouragement! Then I read a Twitter post by my son, “David & Goliath is not about slaying the big problems in our life, but about trusting in God to deliver. David shows faith, & so should we.” Do you note the use of the same word – deliver?
If God delivers, then I can trust Him to deliver. Trusting God means I can be confident in Him to obey His commands. As the old hymn says, “Trust and obey, for there’s NO OTHER WAY, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey.”
After thinking of that scripture and that truth, I began to think of the “adventures” life affords us as we live for Him. I reflected upon mission trips to Malaysia, Alaska, Wyoming, China, New York, Gulfport, Niger, Vermont, Connecticut, Bangladesh, Canada, etc. God has given me numerous opportunities to serve Him outside my “comfort zone,” and in every circumstance, God has delivered. As an act of faith, we should trust God to deliver and obediently serve Him in our day-to-day.
God is looking for people who will "stand." When the army of the Midians came against the Israelites, Gideon called for the men of Israel to defend. Initially he gathered together a large army of 32,000 men. Through a strange test of obedience, God reduced them to a mere handful of men. In 32,000 men who responded, God could trust 300 to stand with Him.
When Goliath taunted the people of God, well-trained and capable men cowarded as a result of his jeering. Young David trusted God to deliver.
I remember vividly right at daybreak arriving at the airport in Malaysia. We had been scheduled to go in October 2001, but we were not allowed to fly from the United States that day. The “War on Terror” actually began as a result of 9/11. We were delayed until January 2002. As we arrived, we were met by 4 men with only broken English. We were ushered into waiting jeeps with several other men (still no one that “looked like us”). We headed off to wherever they were taking us. I remember praying, “God, I hope these are the men we were supposed to meet because I have no idea what is going on here.” I trusted God, and He delivered!
Similar scenarios have taken place during other mission trips. In China when we experienced the worship of an underground church service we stumbled upon outside a village; In Malaysia where people waited hours in 95-degree heat “just in case the Americans might preach;” In Niger when we spent 2 hours with the village Imam and he declared in the hearing of the crowds that had gathered with us under that tree, “Surely this Jesus you talk about must be the Son of God.” And similar scenarios occur near and far, at home or abroad, as we trust God and stand firm in obedience to His commands.
Going back to Gideon and his 300 men, God saw that they were men who would stand and never quit. Because they were men who would stand and never quit, He dismissed the rest. We know the story, with just a small army of three hundred, He proceeded to defeat the Midianites. With David, there was the same level of commitment. As he stood, God used him to bring down the enemy. As already stated, we need to learn the same truth – God delivers so trust Him to give you the victory as you obey Him!
God has always done His greatest work in and through a small number of people, and sometimes strange (impossible seeming) tactics. This is why, when it comes to spiritual victories, we just need to forget about the idea of numbers and what “makes sense” to us. With God – as the scripture declares – ALL THINGS are possible. So, we should learn to “trust and obey!”
God wants men and women today who are prepared to "stand." Men and women whose feet are "shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace." He will not entrust great responsibility to people whom He knows will not "stand," for that would be an exercise in fruitlessness.
The question before you today is simple, “Are you standing for God?” In the environment in which God has placed you for this season, are you indeed standing for God?
As in Gideon's day, God is looking for people who will take their stand on His Word, no matter what the world throws at us. God is looking for people who will stand firm and commit themselves to doing what He asks even though they may not feel like it or see the sense of it. Are you such a person? If you indeed are, hang on – get ready for the exciting spiritual adventures that lie ahead!
“And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” Jeremiah 24: 7, HCSB
Part one with this title took a completely different direction than I had intended in the beginning. As I sat in Bible Study last night at church, I was amazed at how God had used yesterday’s devotion to prepare me to HEAR Him in that Bible study last night. God IS amazing. He continually goes before us to prepare the way. If we will learn to listen to His voice and adjust our lives to His ways, oh what abiding joy would abound in our lives! Today I want to build on the original intent. I begin by asking two basic questions.
1. Do YOU have a HEART for God?
Not 100% sure what all might be involved in that word HEART. I am thinking in term of a yearning for; a desire to know Him fully; a longing to please Him in every breath you take kind of attitude. At your very core, you want to immediately turn from your ways to His ways when the truth is revealed to you.
Psalm 42: 1 (Amplified): “As the hart pants and longs for the water brooks, so I pant and long for You, O God.”
2. Are you confident YOU are in relationship with the Living Lord Jesus Christ?
I am becoming more and more convinced I have to deal with this basic question in my dealings with “church folks.” So many of us appear pre-occupied with things contrary to the teachings of Christ (the heart of God), that I feel we do need to examine our personal relationship with Christ. Do you absolutely know that you will spend eternity in His presence? It is my belief that, as we walk with Him, we WILL walk with Him and not work so hard at getting things done our way.
Several years ago, there was a faithful member of the church I served. She was faithful in her attendance, faithful in her support, and faithful in her service and ministry to others. There is no doubt in my mind she was in a personal relationship with the Living Lord Jesus Christ. When she passed a couple of years after I served the church, I chuckled to myself about one of our regular conversations. She would say, “Preacher, remember when I die I want you to sing ‘I Did It My Way” at my funeral.” To which we would have conversation about that being the worst song I would want sung at my funeral. Oh how I want my legacy to be the singing of “He Did It God’s Way.”
I read recently, “God is interested in whole-hearted stayers, not false-hearted strayers.” We can NOT fool God! The Lord has your name and address. He KNOWS our “secret sin” that interferes with our relationship. Moreover, He knows the REAL condition of your heart. God KNOWS when our status is updated to reflect where we are, who we’re with, what we’re doing, but He also knows our motivation for all! What does God long for in His relationship with us? He longs for hearts that want to know Him. If we are walking with Him today, as we should, then it is our heart to KNOW Him!
In the scripture used in this writing, we see how God encouraged Jeremiah to remain faithful. Jeremiah was God’s prophet to the people of Judah somewhere around 600 B.C. The people of Judah were in exile in Babylon as punishment for their continued disobedience to God. Perhaps we need to learn there are both personal and collective (family, church, nation) consequences for our continued disobedience to God. Nevertheless, God still used Jeremiah to proclaim His truth to His people (thank God for His amazing grace). In this instance, God used two baskets of figs to encourage Jeremiah, assuring him of His redemptive plan for the faithful exiles.
One of the baskets was filled with ripe, juicy figs. This basket represented the exiles that would honor God by returning to Him. The second basket of figs represented the exiles that would refuse to follow Him. Those figs were rotten. God set His eyes on those who would return to Him. He promised to bring them back, build them up, and plant them in the land of His purpose. He would be their God, and they would be His people.
It is my prayer we will HEAR what God is saying to His people (then and now). To ALL that will return to Him (and those that have remained faithful to Him), we can STAND ON THE PROMISES OF GOD! He has promised to bring us back – restoring that relationship with Him and not being exiled to a pagan land; to build us up – to strengthen us and provide all that we need for each day; to plant/establish us as His people to achieve His purpose. Oh, and then the beautiful promise of God – as a part of His family, we will experience the joy of His being our God – our refuge, our strength, our comfort, our help, our everything!
Is your basket of figs ripe toward Him?
“And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” Jeremiah 24: 7, HCSB
The question to ponder is simple, do I REALLY want to KNOW God or am I content to know OF God? The way we truthfully answer that question says a great deal about where we are with God. If we have genuinely accepted Christ as personal Savior and are striving to live a life that honors and glorifies Him, then we are not content with a basic knowledge OF God. Instead, our hearts desire is to get to KNOW God intimately. The more we come to KNOW God, the more we know we have to change our ways to be obedient to His way.
A toddler has some ways that could lead to destruction. Therefore, there is a form of discipline necessary to insure he doesn’t place a screwdriver in an outlet; doesn’t place her hand on the kitchen burner (probably shows my age); teaching them they can’t walk up to strangers on the street and go off with them; etc. etc. etc. As the child grows, he/she may not have to be reminded of such things for he/she has come to know those disciplines and tries to walk by them.
When that toddler becomes a teenager, he/she often knows better (please note these are all lower case letters), than their father and mother and sometimes rebels. However, a good father/mother loves unconditionally, teaches the truth consistently, prays fervently, models faithfully, and hungers for the day that “prodigal child” will return to the truths of his father/mother. Not because the father/mother wants to punish them or “rub their noses in it,” rather because it restores the relationship the father/mother longs for and has sought to instill within their child(ren) all along.
Over the past couple of months, I have had the opportunity to speak with many people about the truths of God’s Word. I have discovered that all of us are sometimes like little children, somewhat naive and willing to follow the lure of total strangers. When that stranger offers that lollipop, that unsuspecting child is placing himself in potential of great danger by running away from the security of his mother’s arm. The child may protest, but I contend that mother is not hurting her child by holding him close and telling him why he should be weary and cautious of strangers trying to lure him away from his mother.
Then there are times we are like rebellious teenagers. We stubbornly hold to our own ways. We know what mom and dad have taught, but we are hearing the lure of a culture that encourages us to wander away a bit and experience life on our own. Mom and dad might constantly remind us of “the way we ought to go,” but we stubbornly hold our own and go our own way.
Unfortunately, during this period, we all make mistakes we will come to regret, but – for the moment – we stubbornly go our own way and justify our actions with a theologically sound statement like, “Mom, but everybody else is doing it!” Of course, we moms and dads respond with an equally theologically sound response, “If everybody else was jumping off a cliff, would you follow them?”
If you are a parent, begin EARLY teaching them what everybody else is doing is irrelevant! What would God have YOU to do is the appropriate question we need to instill within our children early on because we will not be with them most times they are tempted to follow the crowd. Please note, I emphasized we must begin EARLY.
That reminds me of a conversation with a Sunday School teacher in our church earlier this year. There was a new student in her class. It came time for them to pray together as a Sunday School and the teacher opened the floor for the students’ prayer concerns. Everyone shared something – sick family members and friends, family member traveling to some place that week, a death in a friend’s family, etc. The teacher asked the new student if he had a prayer request. Without hesitation, the responded they should pray for the “peace of Jerusalem.” Evidence this three-year old had been in the presence of some Biblical teaching.
Most of us have lived through those rebellious years and we still, as young adults, often remain skeptical and a tad rebellious. Somewhere along the way – hopefully, we begin to mature, have regrets, etc. etc. and return to the relationship of family that is fulfilling/rewarding.
Why do I say all this? Well, first – the culture we live in appears to be neglecting our responsibilities of teaching our children the truths of God. Second, many of us in positions of leadership – whether it be parent, preacher, politician, etc, - are doing a poor job of modeling God’s truths. Third, many of us seem to be living an extended amount of time in that rebellious stage. All the while, God – with love in His eyes and His arms open wide, stands ready to receive us into His presence to enjoy the fulfillment of being His sons and daughters.
His sons and daughters that are abiding in Him, have a hearts desire to know Him more fully and experience the joy that abounds from being obedient to His ways. Every time I try to justify my actions that are contrary to God’s Ways, I know that I have slipped a little for His ways NEVER change. He does not accommodate my ways, for He knows the eternal consequences. 2 Chronicles 7: 14 may be a scripture we need to study.
In recent days, a look at Deuteronomy 14 has been a help to me. You might say, “Why a study of the forbidden things to eat?” My reply – I do not know why God chooses to use particular scriptures to pierce your heats, but He does. As I read Deuteronomy 14 I was overwhelmed with the thought that EVEN MY MENU SHOULD BE UNDER THE LORDSHIP OF CHRIST. You guys know me, so you know that would be a stretch for me to say I am there—but that is what God revealed to me. I do not know the “whys,” but God is bringing more scripture to my eyes to teach me more of His ways.
Among the scriptures included God’s command for His people to be holy. When I read that, I referred back to Deuteronomy 14 and God taught me this, I CAN NOT BE TRULY HOLY UNTIL I AM WHOLLY HIS. I pray that every time I “eat that which is forbidden” that God will remind me that I belong to Him and that more and more, I will choose to be obedient to God and not yield to the lure of the enemy and do that which brings harm to myself.
By the way, Deuteronomy 14 talks about those who belong to God and those that do not belong to God. His people are to be wholly (and holy) different from those that follow the lure of the enemy. Narrow is the way that leads to heaven, so do not believe the lies of the enemy. The enemy seeks to destroy----God sent His Son so that we might have life more abundant!
“One who is faithful in a very little is also faithful in much, and one who is dishonest in a very little is also dishonest in much. If then you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will entrust to you the true riches? And if you have not been faithful in that which is another's, who will give you that which is your own? No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” Luke 16: 10 – 13 ESV
How faithful (devoted, staunch, committed, trustworthy, dependable, reliable, dedicated) are we to the commands of Christ? Among His commands was the requirement to DAILY take up our cross and FOLLOW Him. “And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me.” (Luke 9: 23. However, there are many times we are less than faithful and actually choose to deny Him.
What is denial? It is the attitude that avoids looking realistically at issues. It is pretending or claiming to be something or someone that we are not. It is rejecting or “disowning” that which He has commanded of us. We could go on and on, but I believe the point is made—we are to DAILY choose to follow the Living Christ and strive to live in accordance with His teachings/commands.
In Every Day With Jesus, Ann Graham Lotz writes, “Most Christians (myself included) are to varying degrees held together by denial. Deep down we sense that if we were to face the realities of life openly and honestly, we might not be able to cope, and so we pretend things are not what they are.” There is a great deal of truth in that statement.
We all know (and are probably guilty of) professing Christians that pretend that what we have in our lives satisfies far more than it actually does. We pretend life’s circumstances have not hurt us deeply. We refuse to face and feel what is going on inside us, due to the strange belief that such confessions are expressions of a lack of faith.
Only Christ satisfies! Only faithful obedience to Him brings ultimate JOY into our lives. We can be content in every circumstance of life if we will DAILY choose to pick up His cross and FOLLOW Him. We cannot pretend to follow. We cannot act as if we are fulfilled. We must abide in Him, pick up that cross DAILY, and FOLLOW Him.
I challenge you to look deeply within yourself. Is what you display you say you have in Christ real or fake? We cannot ignore what is going on inside us, we have to face it and deal with it. This “pretending” to be something we are not is responsible for more casualties in the Christian life than we can imagine. A Christian psychologist says: "I am convinced that much of what we admire as spiritual maturity is a fragile adjustment to life based on the foundation of denial.” Think about that statement a bit.
This would mean that much of what we call Christian maturity might very well be based on a “foundation of denial.” We “pretend” to be something we are not. We cling to the world AND try to be Christian in our own strength. We pretend to be faithful, when we are giving God our leftovers and not our firstfruits. In my own observations, I have found many non-Christians to be more open and honest in facing what is going on inside them than some Christians.
Denial is NOT a wise plan for life. Again, Ann Graham Lotz writes, “The choice, then, is stark: either to deny and live comfortably or to face every painful issue - and go on to climb the heights with God.” No matter how much we try Jesus’ truth remains His truth – NO MAN (or woman, or child, or youth) can serve two masters! Our pretending will produce a façade that covers up our weakness and allows us to “meander in the wilderness.” Our choosing to admit who we are and where we are in Christ – to BE REAL – and then, strive to pick up that cross daily and FOLLOW HIM allows us to experience the fullness of a faithful life in Christ and “climb to new heights with God.”
It is my prayer that today I will be real with God! That I will choose to take up His cross and strive to FOLLOW Him. I pray that I will not be so afraid that I would pretend instead of trusting Him. Truth is, there is NOTHING we will face today that is greater than God. If I will admit that truth, accept His provision, TRUST Him completely, and strive to follow Him, I WILL experience the fullness of Christ. I will know the joy of His abiding presence in my life. I will have His Joy and the peace that surpasses all human understanding. What we are longing to experience is found in Jesus, but we must be real with Him. Strive to be faithful in the “small stuff” today, so you can experience His faithfulness.
"SEEING THE crowds, He went up on the mountain; and when He was seated, His disciples came to Him. Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying…” Matthew 5: 1 – 2. (The Amplified Bible)
This is how the Sermon on the Mount passage begins. One might think there is nothing to be taught in verses that set up the scene. I think we can learn a great deal if we simply read through each passage prayerfully and carefully, both “listening” for God to speak to us and as we “hear” Him to act in obedience. I was taught that to “hear” God is to obey God.
The first phrase---SEEING the crowds---taught me something as I read through it this morning. Everywhere Jesus went, masses of people followed Him. They were seeking something from Him and pressed upon Him. The scripture records elsewhere that He saw the “multitudes,” that He saw them as “sheep without a shepherd,” and that we were go out into the harvest field. So, He SAW the multitudes---but here the word SEE takes preeminence.
Reading that this morning, I sensed not simply viewing the mass of people before Him, but I also visualized my Lord looking into my very being and truly seeing me for who I am; where I hurt; how I live my life; what I truly need to find fulfillment in life. These people that had come to Jesus had come with their own needs/agendas/desires, and Jesus SAW them (their hearts), He began to teach them. He spoke, and to find what they (we) really needed, they needed to HEAR Him and act in obedience.
In the mass of people that would “follow” Jesus, there were Scribes and Pharisees seeking to catch Him in something that would reduce His impact on their “turf.” There were those in need of healing, and the sick would often cry out loudly for healing. There were some who wanted to see Him destroy the Romans – they had a political agenda that did not align with the purpose of Jesus’ coming to this earth. Some people were just plain curious. When we read the scripture, we see often that people would jostle (push, shove) one another to get a closer look to Jesus. We see this also in the account of the healing of the woman who pressed in to simply touch the hem of His garment.
As the news spread about Jesus, it seemed as if the crowds would drop all they were doing and rush to be in His presence. They came for whatever reason, but they needed to HEAR Jesus and follow Him! In this account, Jesus SAW the crowd of people and He began to teach what we reefer to as the Beatitudes – what we need to understand to experience the blessings of God.
I don’t know how I really see the setting of the Sermon on the Mount. I see a crowd pushing and shoving, seeking their own agenda. This would mean there would be a noisy buzz in the crowd. Yet, I see a serene setting of Jesus sitting on the mountain, lovingly (and quietly) speaking these words to the mass of people. However, I noticed something as I read these verses that taught me something “new.”
Note: Jesus SAW the crowd, but His disciples came to Him and He began to teach “them.” Isn’t this saying that as the crowds closed in around the disciples, all became quiet. At that point, Jesus delivers what we have named the "Sermon on the Mount." But it appears Jesus was actually teaching his twelve disciples these truths. Those in the crowd closest to them were also treated to the most profound teaching ever heard.
This same Jesus is our Teacher. He has wisdom to share with us that will amaze us, just as it did to those who heard Him with their own ears that day. We do not have to be sitting in a quiet sanctuary or a Sunday School class for Jesus to teach us. As we read His Word daily and LISTEN to Him, we can learn from Him. He can teach us something no matter where you are, even in a noisy crowd. His sheep KNOW His voice and FOLLOW Him! We need to pay close attention when Jesus speaks to us (through His Word, the teaching/preaching/proclamation of others, etc.) so we don't miss the word He has for us!
Like the crowds of that day, we come with a lot of hurts, personal needs, private agendas, and a lot of baggage. We may even come thinking we “know” the answer. The answer my friends, is NOT found “blowing in the wind.” The ANSWER is found in Christ Jesus so we need to LISTEN UP for and to His voice, HEAR what He is saying to us, and act in OBEDIENCE. It is my prayer we will HEAR Him today, and experience the abundant blessings He offers to all who follow Him.
2 Samuel 12 contains the account of Nathan confronting David with his sin (adultery and murder). The illustration Nathan used in the confrontation incensed David with anger toward the man who was guilty. When told by Nathan the man was him, scripture records David’s response in 2 Samuel 12: 13 – 15: “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” And Nathan said to David, “The LORD also has taken away your sin; you shall not die. However, because by this deed you have given occasion to the enemies of the LORD to blaspheme, the child also that is born to you shall surely die.”
We could take this account and go in numerous directions. However, as I read it today I want to focus on 4 aspects:
First, despite David’s position as King Nathan confronted him with his sin. There is a lesson in that. We do not stand as judge and jury to condemn others. All of us have sinned and come short of the glory of God. However, we do bear the responsibility to declare God’s truth in love, desiring that people make things right with God. And we need to let people know that God forgives them completely when they (we) repent of our sin.
Second, we must understand that despite God’s forgiveness for our sins, there are consequences to our sin. We see those consequences described briefly in a “summary statement” in 2 Samuel 12, but detailed vividly throughout the scriptural accounts of David and his family. Our sin impacts our lives and the lives of others, not necessarily s punishment but as consequences of our disobedience. I wondered as I read these scriptures this morning as David lived through/realized the consequences of his sin what he remembered.
· Did David remember he had been forgiven by God for his sin?
· Did David understand and accept the consequences of his sin?
· Did he remember these events and so vividly that they strengthened him to the point that he did not yield to future temptations?
As humans, we know we yield to temptation often. Hopefully, our relationship with the Lord has grown to a better understanding and helped us both reject the temptation to bring God sorrow more and more, but also to understand consequences to our past failures/sins.
I am reminded of a conversation with a man several years ago, that had been charged and convicted of a terrible crime. This crime requires him to account for his whereabouts and restricts his movement legally to this day. He volunteered to assist me in my ministry and a thorough background check revealed his past (he did not give me the information voluntarily). I shared with him that he could not volunteer to assist me as he had volunteered because of the restrictions placed upon him as a result of his previous conviction, etc. I quickly added that there were other ways he could assist in the ministry, but not in ways he was volunteering to minister.
His attitude became one of anger. He justified/defended his actions against his victim. He blamed the victim and declared that others around him would give testimony to support he was not 100% “at fault” and that he should be allowed to work where he wanted to work. I remember him making the statement that most people were guilty in their hearts - if not in their actions – of similar crimes as he, but we were not restricted in our actions. He may be correct, but the law is clear – his conviction and the conditions of his release did not allow him to serve in this capacity and I could not ignore the law. I will also state that – if indeed his life had been transformed by the power of God, it is my belief he would understand and gladly accept any position of service where he could serve.
Third, I want to emphasize David’s immediate response to Nathan’s confrontation of his sin. It is recorded in 2 Samuel 12: 13, “Then David said to Nathan, “I have sinned against the LORD.” David did not try to justify his actions or defend himself in any way. He acknowledged his sin by declaring to Nathan he had sinned against the Lord. He further acknowledge his sin in Psalm 51 (read if you have not read lately). He understood there would be consequences to his sin.
Did it hurt when his child died? Did he hurt when turmoil permeated his household? Did his heart ache when he reflected and realized that he – a man described as being “after God’s own heart” would not be allowed to build God’s temple as a result of his sin? I believe he did, but he understood – he had sinned against God and there are consequences to pay.
Each of us have actions (sins) that impact what we can do. We have to understand that there will be people hurt as a result of our negative witness. Though God forgives, the consequences – even those that we might think are invisible – interfere with our ability to be used mightily.
Let me give a personal example – my career as a spokesman for Weight Watchers. Wait – you say you haven’t seen my commercials. Could it be that the consequences of my spending more time at BoJangles and enjoying their cheddar bo biscuits (along with other less than healthy eating habits) interferes with my ability to be a good spokesperson for Weight Watchers? When we sin against God, we need to understand that EVEN THOUGH God forgives and can use us, there will be lots of times when the enemy will use that stuff against us to hinder the work of the Lord. Our heart’s desire is to advance the work of the Lord and, though it grieves our heart that we cannot always be in the role we wish we could be because of our previous actions, we do not want to hinder the work of the Lord.
Finally, I want us to see David’s actions after the confrontation with Nathan and the death of his son. 2 Samuel 12: 20 reads, “Then David got up from the ground. He washed, anointed himself, changed his clothes, went to the Lord's house, and worshipped. Then he went home and requested something to eat. So they served him food, and he ate.”
David knew life would go on after the death of his son and after his horrible sin. The hard part was how he would live: in remorse, mourning, and defeat? Or in confident faith? Though we may not be guilty of such sin as David, we are guilty of sin. Though we may not have paid such dearly consequences as a result of our sin, we have paid consequences of some kind. And though we may have never experienced the death of a child or other great loss, we have experienced loss. The difficulty is not that we have endured such, rather it is HOW we have endured. Like David, there is a choice on how to live. Will it be remorse, mourning, or defeat? Or will it be a life of confident faith?
Every day there are things that test our faith and affect our walk with the Lord. Some of those tests are difficult! Some of those tests we have failed miserably! However, that is not the end – we have the whole counsel of God before us and that has assured us we have God with us at ALL times , Despite our circumstance and our failures, we are being confronted with God’s truth and we must respond with a life of confident faith in Him!
There should be remorse for our sin, but joy (therefore victory) as a result of our forgiveness! There should be mourning, but we – as Christ-followers, do not mourn as those without the hope of Christ! There should NOT be an attitude of defeat, for we have been given victory through Christ Jesus! Respond to God with a confident faith in Him to use you and be the faithful witness God has called you to be in Him! “Forgetting the past…press on” in obedience to the call of God to be His faithful witness in the days ahead!
I read this prayer in a devotional: “Forgiving God, forgive my sin and my willingness to wallow in defeat. Give me confident faith to continue in spite of my shortcomings. Amen”.
The LORD came, stood there, and called as before, "Samuel, Samuel!" Samuel responded, "Speak, for Your servant is listening." 1 Samuel 3:10, HCSB
Sometimes as a husband I am accused of "seeming to pay attention" as my wife speaks to me but, not really listening to anything being said. Though I do not concur with that assessment (LOL), there is a lesson learned from that illustration we need to learn.
In order to really listen, the husband who is guilty of such action, must focus his attention on what his wife is saying. Sometimes, this simple act requires a great deal of effort to accomplish.
In the scripture above, Samuel could not remotely imagine that one night God was calling him. Samuel thought it was Eli the priest who called his name since the voice was so personal. Eli helped young Samuel understand God was speaking. We need to understand that God IS speaking to us these days as well! Just as intimately as the personal call on young Samuel. I pray we will hear Him!
Samuel took Eli’s advice and promptly answered God correctly. There is a LOT in that statement. Samuel LISTENED to the sagely advice being afforded him. We need to be open to the counsel of God's people (and even those that might not be walking as they should currently) as they remind us that God IS talking and we should listen to Him/for Him.
Some of us may have never heard the voice of God in such a personal manner. Although we may never hear Him audibly, we must develop an attitude of careful listening if we are to hear God calling our name speaking to us. We must learn to focus all of our attention on God. Then, in the stillness of our souls, we will recognize His voice. At times, we must be willing to seek guidance from our spiritual leaders in order for this personal encounter to take place.
My prayer this day (as I prepare to head out for worship with my church family) is this -- Father, focus my attention so I can listen to You. Perhaps I will add---Father, touch my heart so I WILL listen to You!
“Teacher, which kind of commandment is great and important (the principal kind) in the Law? [Some commandments are light--which are heavy.] And He replied to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (intellect). This is the great (most important, principal) and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as [you do] yourself. These two commandments sum up and upon them depend all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22: 36-40 (Amplified Bible)
Do you ever wonder what is MOST important about the Christian life? What ONE THING MUST we “do” in order to live a life that pleases God?
A few weeks back, we had a young man speak at our church. In his sermon he referred to “we have got to get this right” as he referred to “loving vertical” (meaning our relationship with God), and “loving horizontally” (meaning our relationship with one another). Repeatedly throughout his sermon, he made reference to this and always illustrated it in the “picture” of the cross.
Ever since that day, that illustration and his words have permeated my thoughts OFTEN! He is correct – we MUST get this right! Jesus said in these verses, that upon this one particular truth EVERYTHING else “hinges.” In The Amplified translation, He says “sum up and upon them depend ALL the law.” EVERYTHING else then, must be of lesser importance in our visible witness to the world around us.
My purpose in living is to honor Christ Jesus my Savior and Lord. There are many things I can do to please Him. There are many things I must do to demonstrate His preeminence I my life. However, this ONE thing is of most importance – and is the most visible—LOVING GOD AND, from that love for Him, loving others!
My first priority must be Christ. I must love Him supremely. My love for Him dominates everything about my life. Failure to place Him first and foremost, makes Him less in every aspect of my life. Therefore, I must love Him supremely if I am to make impact in the other aspects of my life.
And – if I have that right, then my love for God is VIVIDLY demonstrated in my love for others! The world KNOWS if I am abiding in Christ as I should based on the outward evidence of my love and concern for my fellow man. I have got to get that right. EVERYTHING else hinges on these two levels of loving God and loving others.
John 15 encourages us to “abide in Him.” If we abide in Him, that will be evident. My prayer today is simple, LORD – may I love you more than anything or anyone. May I place you first in my life. And Lord, may all those around me see that I love you in the ways I demonstrate my love for you in my actions toward my fellow man. Help me to love others better than I love myself. And Father, as a result of my witness in your love, may others see Jesus and come to know you as Lord.
Then a voice came from the cloud, saying "This is My Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!” Luke 9:35, HCSB
Peter had been taught well! His Jewish upbringing comes to the forefront and his heart is divided as a result. He wants to keep Moses, representing the Law; Elijah, representing the Prophets; and Jesus, representing the new revelation, all on the same level. His response was, "Let us make three tabernacles"
It is of great significance that IMMEDIATELY following Peter’s statement, a cloud descended and "they became afraid as they entered the cloud." This was far more serious than we might realize not being a part of this culture. The entire future was bound up with the question of whether Jesus was final and whether supreme allegiance should be given to Him. Who is the “final authority” and “who deserves our complete allegiance?” We all have to answer these in the affirmative for Christ Jesus in order to become completely sold out to His LORDSHIP in every aspect of our lives!
Where there is division, there will always be clouds. We have to admit, there are clouds over our churches. We fear as we enter those clouds. Why are we afraid? The answer is simple - division. Ephesians 4 encourages each of us, as members of the church to do all we can to preserve the unity of the body. John 15 vividly details the importance and the imperativeness of our ABIDING in Christ!
In the midst of this cloud – and I contend countless others - comes a Voice. God speaks! The Voice is one of evaluation and invitation. God said, "This is my Son, the Chosen One; listen to Him!" (Luke 9:35). The clouds will never lift and the fears will never depart until we LISTEN to Christ. John 17 details what He is saying, "May they all be one, as You, Father, are in Me and I am in You" (John 17:21). Christ must be first, and the unity of His Body must take priority over any other allegiances we might have.
It is my prayer that it will not be long before we who share Christ's Name truly become one. For the church to more effectively achieve its purpose, we must abide in Him and become one as Christ prayed for us to become,
Associational Missions Strategist at Tar River Baptist Association since November, 2000. Called of God to work with member churches to strengthen the local church in its efforts to impact lostness in THIS generation! I will ATTEMPT to add to this blog almost daily. People are free to use the ideas shared in any way they wish. The purpose of the posts are merely to help us in our search to BE the people God is calling us to BE in Him!